Easter 2C ‘22
24 April 2022
John 20.19-31
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Risen Lord, may we like Thomas, not be content with a second-hand faith, but hold out for a first-hand experience of genuine faith and the depths of your love, that we may be signs of resurrection in this world. A-men.

In today’s gospel reading we learn that the risen Christ can meet us right where we are and give us peace. Like the disciples who were hiding behind locked doors, we can find ourselves locked away in our doubts, fears and disappointments. The good news is that he meets us and finds us but doesn’t leave us where he finds us. The risen Christ is able to take our doubts, fears and disappointments and use them as the raw materials for faith.

Christ doesn’t condemn us for having our doubts, fears and disappointments but instead seeks to transform our wanderings and wonderings into transitions that lead us to faith. While this place of faith does not provide us with certainty it does provide an abiding peace in the face of life’s ever-changing circumstances.

Can you just imagine for a moment listening in to those frightened disciples hiding behind locked doors? What might some of their doubts, fears and disappointments have been? What kinds of thins might they be saying? “Have I just wasted the last three years of my life? I left a good job and career for this tragedy? They killed Jesus are they coming for us too? How am I going to survive? Jesus why did you let things get to this point? Why didn’t you use your power to avoid this awful death? You talked about death not having power over you then where are you? Are you dead?” In the infamous disciple whom we unfairly refer to as ‘doubting Thomas’ we hear his bold declaration of doubt: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Rather than “Doubting Thomas” he should have been called “ Honest Thomas” he let it be known that he needed more than just the testimonials from the other disciples who claimed to have seen Christ after the resurrection. Thomas, whom St. John refers to as “the twin” experienced doubt, fear and disappointment not once but twice! Thomas was not present when Christ first appeared to the disciples on that Easter Sunday evening. Thomas was not there to see the resurrected Lord; he was not there to hear Christ’s comforting words of peace.

Not to be content with a secondhand faith, Thomas stubbornly holds out to see for himself. In other words, Thomas stays put – smack dab in the middle of his doubts, fears and disappointments. Thomas stayed in that very lonely place, a place where everyone but him seemed worthy of God’s blessing. Without the gift of grace Thomas was going to remain stuck in a personal crisis with no way out.

Thomas and the other disciples, like us were not able to see the big picture. They were unable to see that rather than being stuck in a quagmire of tragedy they were in a transition. This transition is most clearly seen when the risen Christ breathes on his disciples and commands them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This breath was not the powerless breath of an ordinary human but the very breath of God giving new life and establishing a new community. Just as God first breathed the life into Adam and Eve Christ now breathed the new life and power of the Holy Spirit into his followers.

Now the eleven disciples see the larger plan of God. In the clear light of the resurrection they have been in transition, a transition from doubt to faith, from fear to confident trust and from disappointment to gratitude. God was also in the process of transforming them from disciples into apostles! Christ’s death was not an ending but a beginning because of his resurrection! The real work for the ‘apostles’ was only just beginning. T.S. Elliot underscores this well in his poem Little Gidding: What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning.

Where was Thomas during this wonderful new beginning? He may have been an introvert who needed a few moments of quiet to reflect on the events of the last three days, he may have been out wandering and wondering, asking himself what on earth he was going to do now that Jesus had died. The scripture only tells us: “Thomas was not with them when Jesus came.” Whatever he was out doing caused him to miss out on the blessing of Christ’s first visitation, but there was to be a second. As many of us can attest God’s timetable is seldom ours but Thomas’ day of faith would come and ours will as well.

When Thomas lays his eyes upon Christ he immediately utters a bold declaration of faith: “My Lord and my God!” Right on the spot he was transformed from a ‘doubting Thomas’ to a ‘believing Thomas.’ All of the sudden everything fell into place. Thomas’ crisis of faith had ended, to be sure he would face other tests along his journey but the question of who his Lord and God was had been settled once and for all.

Today many of us are experiencing or have experienced some of these same doubts, fears and disappointments. We struggle by doubting God’s love, care or ability to come to our aid when we are hurting. We become disappointed when life doesn’t appear to be turning out like we had hoped.

What if we were to offer our struggles up to God as a gift? What if we were to trust that God was up to something bigger than our vision can see? What if we dared to believe that endings were actually beginnings and that we weren’t actors in a tragedy but pilgrims on a path of transition? I don’t know that our circumstances would change very much but I do believe that we ourselves would change.

None of us here today have actually seen the risen Christ but because we have not seen Christ we are offered a specific blessing in today’s gospel: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” As we, the risen Christ’s modern day followers believe in Him we receive the promise of new life. Christ comes to us in our struggles and meets us right where we are but is not content to leave us there. The same risen Christ relentlessly pursues us by breaking through the barriers of our locked doors of doubt, fear and disappointment filling us with his peace and leading us to ever greater levels of faith, hope and love. This is the transformative transition that we are a part of.

Let us pray:

O God, help me understand that life’s difficulties are in fact   opportunities; That life’s endings are also beginnings; and that life’s disappointments are sometimes our finest teachers. Amen.